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BIA President Jim Roche.

Since Jim Roche became president of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire in 2005, the group has been much more activist on issues relating to business, and lately it has played a crucial role in opposing a variety of business taxes, including extending the interest and dividends tax on limited liability company distributions--otherwise known as the "LLC tax."

* Q. What were you doing before joining the BIA?

A. I was corporate communications director for the legal regulatory division of Thomson Financial and also worked in economic development.

When we made the decision to relocate from Minneapolis to move to the Northeast, I didn't want to work for a huge corporation. So I looked at the landscape and actually visited with (former BIA president) John Crosier three years before I took his job, not knowing that he was going to be moving on. I ended up running The Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce based out of Utica, N.Y., and then did John announce his retirement. I got wind of that, and they hired me.

* Q. It seems like the BIA has become more aggressive politically in the last few years.

A. Perhaps, but a legislative scorecard is very common, so adding a scorecard of our own is something other states are doing. And by adding a political action committee, we are just doing what a state chamber ought to be doing.

* Q. Tell us about the LLC tax and the budgetary crisis.

A. We were one of the very few groups to flag the middle-of-the-night introduction of this. We were in the room. Most of the other groups that were critical of us were not. Nobody knew what the heck this thing was, and yet they inserted it into the budget.

The budget didn't include a number of things that we had fought mightily against, so we got a call from the governor. He felt that without our support, that it would not pass and if it went back for round two, the business community would see a world of hurt. There was no guarantee other anti-business measures would not find itself in budget number two, and so we ended up publicly endorsing the budget.

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We had legislators and other groups mischaracterizing our support as supporting every single line item. That's when we said, "We are done." We wanted fast-track repeal. And we have been leading the charge--and I mean that--to insure that that tax is repealed.

* Q. What about the charge that the BIA doesn't represent small business?

A. The majority of our members--55 percent--employ 50 or fewer and 35 percent 10 or fewer. We have another 2,700 small businesses that are Capital Connect Members of the BIA--very small businesses (10 or fewer employees) who are members of the local chambers where the chamber itself is a member. So regularly, we are communicating on a weekly basis with close to 4,000 business leaders throughout the state.

Those who characterize us as a large business organization are characterizing us that way for their own motives. No other broad-based business advocacy group in New Hampshire with members throughout the state represents virtually every economic sector.

* Q. We know what you are against in this year's budget battle. Is there any solution or fix to close the budget gap?

A. A constitutional amendment related to education funding. Beyond that, the Legislature needs to model its actions on what every business up and down Main Street has done over the last two years--make the tough decisions to try to stay afloat. The private sector will lead the state out of its economic challenges if they are given opportunity and not saddled with additional tax and regulatory burdens.

NHBR.com

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Title Annotation:Q&A; Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire
Author:Sanders, Bob
Publication:New Hampshire Business Review
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1U1NH
Date:May 21, 2010
Words:632
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